When I’m stuck writing, I like to read. Of course, my go to is Stephen King. I have expounded on my adoration of him before, and likely will again. Stephen is my literary love, and at my poetry meeting this month I won the door prize, which was a copy of Bag of Bones. I was excited, as I have never read it. So, when I was feeling overwhelmed by editing the other day, I cracked that bad boy open.
One chapter is all it took to feel like a talentless hack.
Now I understand that I am comparing my lowly works to one of the greats, and not only that, but my personal hero. I could never write as well as him and I would never want to, but reading his words has caused me to become very self-conscious of my own.
For instance, as it stands, my little novel is 51k. Bag of bones is 210k. I tried to reassure myself by looking up how long Carrie was, but still, that’s 61k, so I felt no better. Little inside voice that is always rational says that following drafts might have more words: perhaps there are things I will want to add. Also, it reminds me that King is historically verbose, with the exception of Carrie. His next book, Salem’s Lot, was 122k. His only other “short” novel (I’m not counting novellas here,) was The Gunslinger, coming in at 56k. So really, I’m comparing myself to someone who is generally wordy, whereas my writing style is more succinct, so there’s no comparison to be made, actually.
But then there’s the descriptions. He uses entire pages to describe events that I usually fit into a couple of paragraphs. As I edit, I am looking for opportunities to expand on simple ideas, to bulk out both my manuscript and my thoughts. Rational voice reasons that reading King is good for editing as it can give me ideas as to where I want to end up. Irrational brain insists everything I’ve ever written is garbage and that Stephen King himself would use it to line a hamster cage.
Carrie is not my favorite King book, but it is special to me. I even mention it in my novel, giving a little nod to my love of the master. It’s important because it was his first work, and originally, he thought it was garbage, too. So much so that his wife fished it out of the trash, read it, and then told him she wanted to know how it ended. This little story reminds me that every author, no matter their ability, thinks their writing is crap.
I finished editing my WIP the other day and sent it off to Sahar’s capable hands. I am very much at a loss as to what to do with my time. On Monday I updated my blog, sent withdrawals out because I got a poetry acceptance, and then sat on Twitter for half an hour because I didn’t know what to do with myself without my WIP. Tuesday, I tried writing an elevator pitch. It’s…not good. It’s really hard to condense 50,000 words into 50.
On Wednesday I tried writing a longer pitch, something you might find on a back cover. It is also not good:
Awaking alone in a dream world, Frankie must try to find someone to bring her the answers she seeks. Her mother, Lila, interrupts her own hunt for understanding when she learns her daughter is in trouble. Will they overcome their dysfunctional relationship, or will the chasm between them only deepen? A look at loss, grief, and grave mistakes, this story tells the tale of two women on a quest to find themselves and each other.
I mean…this isn’t even the tip of the iceberg. But it’s things like back cover material that get people to purchase a book, so you have to be very succinct and try to tell the story in as few words as possible, but also draw the reader in. Whenever I read that back, I hear it in Mr. Moviefone’s voice. It’s drivel. I hate it.
But, it’s a work in progress, like everything is, and I am just teaching myself how to do this as I go. I will certainly come up with something better as I learn how to write pitches. I’ve been reading articles on how to sell your book to agents and such. That’s still a way off but learning the process now can’t hurt.
See how I did that? I started out writing about how I feel like a total hack when I read King and then brought it around to things I am working on in the meantime despite feeling that way. Because it’s all just hamster cage liner in our minds, until someone picks it out of the trash and says, “hey, I want to read that.”